Shoplifting is a criminal offense that people may not take as seriously as they should. Technically, any theft offense could lead to a criminal record and represents a violation of laws and social ethics. However, some people are dismissive about shoplifting crimes in particular. They may view crimes that target businesses as victimless crimes or might assume that the Wisconsin laws have made shoplifting effectively inconsequential.
Is it true that shoplifting is a minor offense that only results in a slap on the wrist?
Different situations lead to different penalties. While it is true that a person may receive a ticket for shoplifting, they just as easily could be arrested. It does not matter if a person thinks it’s a minor violation, Wisconsin laws treat retail theft very seriously. In Wisconsin it is a Class A misdemeanor, if the value of the merchandise does not exceed $500, which carries a possible jail sentence of up to nine months in state custody a $10,000 fines, or both. However, it is a felony offense if the value of the stolen merchandise exceeds $500. If the value is between $501-$5,000 it is a Class I felony, if the value is between $5,001 up to $10,000 it is a Class H felony, and if it exceeds $10,000 it is a Class G felony.
In theory, shoplifting offenses can be minor, but in reality, they often have dire consequences. A misdemeanor shoplifting charge will stay on someone’s record for decades, if not the rest of their life. Often only those accused of youthful offenses qualify to expunge such records. A felony offense will have an even stronger impact that will be harder to remove.
Individuals may get arrested for a mistake, like putting an item under their cart and forgetting about it, and that item could easily be worth more than $50. For many individuals accused of a shoplifting offense, pleading guilty and hoping for the best outcome might mean not only the risk of jail time but also having a life-changing criminal record.
There are multiple ways to defend against shoplifting charges, depending on the situation leading to someone’s arrest. Learning more about criminal statutes in Wisconsin and seeking legal guidance can help someone decide the best way to respond after an arrest on shoplifting charges.